ARBIL: Iraq's Kurdistan region said it will resume oil exports during the first week of August as a confidence-building measure, after stopping them for more than four months following a row with Baghdad.
Kurdistan halted oil exports to the federal government on April 1 over $1.5 billion it said is owed to foreign oil companies working in the region, that Baghdad has allegedly withheld.
If the exports resume, the move would represent an improvement in relations between Baghdad and Arbil, which have been at a low ebb amid festering disputes over oil contracts and territorial claims.
"Oil exports from the Kurdistan Region will resume in the first week of August, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) announced," a statement posted on the website of the autonomous region's government Wednesday evening said.
"The MNR said that despite initial reluctance from the producing international oil companies (IOCs) in the region to export without guarantees of payment, the IOCs had been persuaded to restart exporting at 100,000 barrels per day (bpd)," the statement said.
It quoted a ministry spokesman as saying that "exports would remain at 100,000 bpd for a month and if payments were forthcoming, they could move swiftly up to 200,000 bpd."
"After approaches made by friends of Iraq in political and diplomatic circles, the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) has decided to resume exports from the region to build confidence with the federal government," the region's natural resources minister, Ashti Hawrami, said in the statement.
The aim is "squaring up all the oil and gas issues in Iraq," Hawrami said.
Kurdistan has signed dozens of oil contracts with foreign firms without the approval of Baghdad, which says all such deals must go through the national oil ministry and regards any that do not as illegal.
French oil giant Total became the latest oil major to take a stake in Kurdistan exploration blocks on July 31, joining firms including Chevron and Exxon that have also done so, drawing Baghdad's ire.